Clampdown on Hawaii Vacation Rentals Escalates: First Maui, Next Oahu

As Maui goes forward with aggressive measures to phase out 50% of its short-term rentals, Oahu signals its readiness to follow. A big shift in Hawaii’s vacation rental approach is upon us.

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196 thoughts on “Clampdown on Hawaii Vacation Rentals Escalates: First Maui, Next Oahu”

  1. As many mouths salivate over the demise of many, or most, STR’S, no doubt that the new construction in Honolulu is planned to make up for the loss. The additional bill counters have been purchased, awaiting the massive influx of dollars from tourists that no longer have a choice of where to stay. Much before the State thought up the inevitable losses of privately owned rental properties, preferred by many, the massive construction began, how could they know? Behind the scenes manipulation? Deals? Chafing hands from backroom handshakes, making a Mockery of Justice and the Rule of Law no doubt. The Wealthy are Wealthier, the rest still believing that they will have housing. Nothing like a good Lie perpetuated making it Believable!

      1. Hi Patrick! I’m Back. What will happen when everyone finds out that they’ve been lied to and used? The STR’S won’t be affordable for the people who are waiting, they have swallowed every bit of the deception. Too late to change their minds, it’s already begun. Maybe they can thank Green and his cohorts by voting them out of office in the next election.

        1. Ernie S. I suspect you’re partially right. The market will determine the prices. For both long term rentals and outright sales of apartments that are involved. Location matters too. View, close to a beach. I believe the number needed for Lahaina-impacted families kicked around is about 1000. The least attractive 1000 will rent. Litigation could slow the process down. If injunctions are granted. Owners will keep renting them STR but will not invest in upgrades or some repairs. If the county laws are deemed unconstitutional nothing changes. Politicians could be safe as long as the big hotels keep continuing to their coffers.

    1. As many mouths salivate over the demise of many, or most, STR’S….

      Not so fast. There will be years of ligitation. So it won’t be happening if at all.

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  2. I view this as a good thing for the hotel and resorts and good for the locals communities who lost there residential areas to vacation rentals owners , its was a bad practice years past mixing the 2 land uses togeather…

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  3. The reason is that transient guests are at greater risk in unfamiliar settings. Houses are not like most hotels with very simple layouts. And they are not like home where you know in the dark where your kids are sleeping. You also know about the nus ces of your own home vs an STR, where you expect someone else has made the right corrections to electrical, HVAC, and appliances. If you don’t believe some people will cut corners to make a buck, take you head out of the sand. An individual has far less to lose compared to a chain hotel…

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    1. Adam, you are hilarious. “Fear the STRs, you’re not safe! You may bump into a wall! You may get electrocuted by your coffee maker!” I have to admit these are very new STR-bashing ideas. Kudos for your creativity!

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      1. I guess you can ignore the 100+ children who died in STR pools in 2022 alone, or the 7 people who died in a fire in an STR building in Canada, or maybe the sisters who died in Long Island, NY? These merely highlights of injury and deaths that have occurred in STRs that have been under regulate. It’s clear you don’t want to see anything but dollar signs, which is yet another example of people assuming risk for other for their own profit. I pray your guests and you live happily ever after.

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        1. Adam, You’re cherry picking. Stop drinking the cool aid!

          Example: ‘Vegas hotel massacre. Guns, ammunition and bump stocks delivered to the killer in his room. Hundreds killed. Many other examples.

          Risk has nothing to do with what kind of accommodations are used. Not sure where your numbers came from but remember that there are more than 20,000 STRs in Maui today.

          Don’t let local and state politicians blind you. They are being paid very well to kill STRs by the mainland hotel chains. Period.

          There are hundreds of thousands of other STRs worldwide including the Maui STRs on the corrupt mayors’ list that are used by vacationers every day with 6 sigma success.

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          1. No fearmongering, my point is that STRs should be treated like the business they are, meeting the same building and life safety codes as other transient lodging facilities. Most businesses are not allowed to open without application of a change of use, and an inspection. Renting a house? It should be fully compliant with codes at the time of change of use. Other issues, like removing residential neighborhoods or housing stock will slow as meeting code will stunt some of the growth. Merely asking that lodging people pay for be safe to a documented code.

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    2. Adam, it sounds like you come from a professional environment and you know exactly what’s it like to be in compliance with the safety regulations, continuous inspections and the total oversight that hotels must adhere to.
      I agree with you 100%. I am yet to see Airbnb “send” their representatives to inspect anything… We cannot compare …

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  4. PatG

    You are correct, STRs paying same (or Higher property tax rates) than hotels as well as all the other tourist related taxes.

    Where or Why do these people come up with this wrong information?

    Are they aware or are they just counting on the average reader to be tricked into believing this.

    Thanks for correcting the record.

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    1. Not looking for tricks. Most of the country taxes licensed lodging businesses differently than home occupation. It’s great to see that Maui or maybe all of HI at least leveled the field on that regard.

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    2. Elen, I don’t know. I’m finding all kinds of crazy stuff online these days, some on this site, but mostly on other sites. Things like “Now that you can’t rent an STR anymore..” and “All STRs have now been banned…” – with people falling for it with lots of likes! When I try to provide a correction, they argue with me and say the law has passed and the ban is in effect! Crazy, as absolutely nothing has happened yet in terms of any sort of ban.

      It’s either a conspiracy, or some people have actually been hoodwinked into believing completely inaccurate information.

      Makes me wonder how much else of what I read nowadays is completely false.

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      1. PatG: All true. When you have people we’ve elected to local, state and federal offices routinely lying in public statements, many average citizens see nothing wrong with doing the same. There are no repercussions. Many do it because they know some people will believe and regurgitate it over and over – thus substantiating it. It doesn’t work. We own a rental STR in Maui and have been booking stays throughout this mess.

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  5. Although, we don’t agree on everything, clearly, everyone on this platform cares about Hawaii, our residents and our future.
    Among everything else, we have to remember the big picture… that private land and homeownership should be protected at any cost. Therefore, while we want hotels to thrive, we also want some of STR to remain and stay viable (in designated areas).
    We don’t want STR owners to sell their property and we don’t want our residents to suffer either. We should be paying attention how the new bill 2919 is being implemented.
    See what is happening on the mainland and around the world with the property rights and how investment companies are buying out everything…

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  6. While the large corporate hotels and chains certainly have the backing to lobby, we should be cognizant that for decades they have been paying much higher tax rates, increased building costs and have had to pay for much greater safety and security measures. Now out of left field comes competition that has very low overhead, and flaunts the safety system rules.
    Peer-to-peer platforms effect the bottom line of tourist accommodations, rental cars and taxis. Imagine if your field of business suddenly had competition that didn’t require licenses or other expenses your job requires… It won’t be long before one will represent themselves in the court of law utilizing AI, or doctors in Asia will telehealth you out of work…

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    1. Adam, you said “…we should be cognizant that for decades they have been paying much higher tax rates.

      Where are you on the islands? For decades on Maui, the STRs paid the same tax rates as the hotels. Now they pay a higher rate than the hotels ($11.85 per thousand dollars, as opposed to $11.75 for the hotels. Owner occupants pay 2.00 per thousand). You are the 2nd person who seems to think the hotels are paying more taxes than the short-term rentals, but maybe you are talking about another island.

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  7. Adam, you are 100% correct on safety. But statistically, in Maui, there have never been any safety issues (except the completely preventable Lahaina fire). The main driver is all political with huge mainland-based hotels supplying all the cash Hawaii’s politicians’ election funds need. Singe party rule is usually that way. Other posts here have correctly (IMO) predicted the very negative impact on Maui’s full time population if this comes to pass.

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    1. While I understand that there has yet to be a safety problem, this is why codes are enacted: to prevent them, because something hasn’t happened or to a degree of public interest does not excuse an owner from their responsibility to the safety of their guests.

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      1. Seriously!? The hotel is responsible for what their guests do out in the Ocean on their own time by their own choice!? So maybe the hotel should go thru the guest’s luggage and hold on to any snorkeling equipment for 24 hours or have them wear ankle monitors that go off if they go near the Ocean!

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      2. Adam, the majority of legal Maui short term vacation rentals are managed by licensed property management brokerages. Our goal is safety and security for our visitors and require the owners to maintain a safe and well maintained dwelling. We are on island and available 24/7 to our guests. We don’t charge exorbitant rates and fees as hotels do for basically a bed and bath. Long time Maui residents are leaving – the collateral damage is just beginning.

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        1. If your properties do not have fire sprinklers and automatic fire alarm systems then they are not as safe as hotels, motels, resorts, etc. Do all the homes have code compliant stairs and handrails (most in the US do not)? How about carbon monoxide detectors where there’s any fuel burning appliances?

          Did you know that every model code in the US has required home fire sprinklers in single family homes for over a decade, but due to costs, most states have removed this requirement. It should be the minimum that if one is to turn their home into an STR that it a least meets the minimum safety standards of a new home, not some “grandfathered” set of rules when it was built.

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          1. lol. Why on earth would a homeowner, who has a perfectly safe and comfortable home (legal occupancy assumed), have to make further enhancements just for someone else to occupy it for a short time? In other words, if it’s legally inhabitable for the homeowner, why wouldn’t it be legally inhabitable for a guest? Sorry, but that dog don’t hunt.

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        2. Linda, it sounds like you are sincere, so my respect to you, but you are also right by saying “the majority” …
          There are many STR vacation rentals that are absolutely terrible and cannot be contacted after 7pm as they will not answer the phone…
          It feels like the customer service is nonexistent – I know that, because I often come in contact with many in my line of work. The biggest issues with STR I hear from guests: lack of services, not sure who to contact, cleanliness issues (big one), concerns about safety, lack of flexibility and fees that are often 50% of total room + tax.

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    2. John John. This has been going on for years. The buyer is parking a small part of his $ to keep it from evaporating with the hope the house will appreciate more than the out-of-pocket costs + his internal rate of return. You’re correct about the negative impact it will have on the Hawaiian economy. Plus these deals can usually be cash only because the house is appraised for a fraction of the 1.7 million so a mortgage is not possible.

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  8. Want to understand what drives all of this? Watch what has been going on in Oahu for years. Carefully read testimony of the Hoteliers, see how they have organized their Union laborers. Watch what the HLTA used to post in their legislative tracker.

    Clearly it was an effort to reduce competition and clearly the favor trading and the Lobbyist donations drove the Legislative Bills introduced each year.

    I truly appreciate your comment Charlie, on how the charges against STRs changed over time (fraying fabric of neighborhoods now housing crisis… same playbook Washington DC…. just keep changing the target of what we want people to fear and then connect our enemies to the latest fear using media (Star Adv is their bf).

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